Out of the corner of one eye, I could see my mother. Out of the corner of the other eye, I could see her shadow on the wall, cast there by the lamplight. It was a big and solid shadow, and it looked so much like my mother that I became frightened. For I could not be sure whether for the rest of my life I would be able to tell when it was really my mother and when it was really her shadow standing between me and the rest of the world.
Certainly I can say that my own childhood was unhappy. This was due to a clash of wills between my mother and myself. My early life was a series of fierce battles, from which my mother invariably emerged the victor. If I could not be seen anywhere, she would say, "Go and find out what Bernard is doing and tell him to stop it."
All that remains to the mother in modern consumer society is the role of scapegoat; psychoanalysis uses huge amounts of money and time to persuade analysands to foist their problems onto the absent mother, who has no opportunity to utter a word in her own defense. Hostility to the mother in our societies is an index of mental health.
We are impressed with nature's power, but by projecting upon this power an image of the feminine, the mother, we reassure ourselves — for surely a mother will always be loving toward us, continue to feed us, clothe us, and carry away our wastes, and never kill us, no matter how much toxic waste we put in the soil or how many CFCs in the ozone. The sense of nature as inexhaustible mother encourages us to feel there are no limits to a finite planet, while the sense of nature as benign and ever-loving mother permits us to continue disregarding a crescendo of warnings.